Friday, April 08, 2005

Call Me Martin Luther

Apparently some of my opinions have hit the publishing world like ripe shit. Now while it still falls short of nailing a treatise to the castle door, I am quite pleased that my blog has bound the britches of a few industry people. After being mentioned in Media Bistro's book publishing blog, Galley Cat, word of our little coup quickly spread to Publisher's Lunch:


Among recent blogs launched is one from a guy whose "job at Vintage and Anchor Books is to research and develop new ways of marketing and publishing books, to identify new channels for promotion and sales, and to organize alternative marketing campaigns - and by 'alternative' the book publishing world often means 'online.'" He notes, "in the current state of publishing, there's little (if any) infrastructure to reach outlets that are not mainstream media and traditional book retail."
One post relates to his realization that Vintage--arguably one of the best-known names in trade paperbacks--"has found itself in something of a schizophrenic nightmare due in large part to the fact that it has no universal image or logo that consumers can identify when browsing in a book store." He counts nine different imprint logos "and only a few of them look even remotely similar" and that doesn't even count the logoless sci-fi line.
One of his first posts relates to being one of the few publishing people to appear at the SXSW Interactive conference. Among the things he heard: "Tom Anderson of MySpace said, in short, that MySpace has more money than it knows what to do with because companies are spending so much to advertise on his site. Why? MySpace is the #7 most trafficked site on the internet behind Google at #6. Tom went on to advise audience members NOT to advertise on MySpace, but to actually use the site, open a FREE account and use it - he promised the return would be hundreds of times more valuable. The problem is that takes work, time, and some creative thought as to how MySpace can work for you. It's easier to throw money into an ad than try to understand this new, 'cool' medium."

My favorite part is clearly about Vintage arguably being one of the best-known names in trade paperback publishing. If you only talk to people who work in publishing, or a related industry, then yes, Vintage is among the most well-known and highly esteemed, but I try to avoid talking to industry people too much because it warps ones perspective. It's like a priest getting feedback from the choir (ah, I have pope-on-the-brain today).

I take my job with me when I leave the office and I talk to people about books and authors and their perceptions of both and the publishing industry at large. It's easy to get this information from people through casual conversation if you simply listen. I would say that easily 90-95% of the people I talk to have NO IDEA what Vintage is (and these are just the ones who read books). I always have to tell people that Vintage is part of Random House, a name which nearly everyone recognizes. That's not good branding.

Would I have to mention General Motors or even Pontiac for you to know what a Firebird or a Trans Am is? [I hope someone out there gets the
irony here] Or even closer to home, would I have to mention Bertelsmann or BMG for you to recognize labels like Arista, Columbia, RCA, or Epic Records? I doubt it.

My suspicion, and this spans all of major publishing, is that very few consumers have ANY concept of or identification with brand when it comes to books, AND, most disconcertingly, I also suspect that we're one of the ONLY media industries without significantly recognizable and distinguishable brand identities.

Now I'm certain there are exceptions, and I have met plenty of people who do recognize imprints, but the fact that so few notice book branding only illustrates the point that much work in the publishing industry remains to be done, or (possibly) we need to rethink our branding strategies.

And thanks to
Buzz, Balls & Hype for the bump - I'm glad someone appreciates a frank discussion of these issues.


Blogger Jozef Imrich, Esq. said...

Even Rachel is Sepulcultureā€™s Friend ;-P

5:07 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

I'm not quote sure what that comment was supposed to mean, but anyway, I've been meaning to post and say that this is all quite fascinating. As an author and a reader, I probably know more about small presses and their unique styles/missions than I do about imprints of big publishers, though I am learning more every day. Please keep illuminating us, because this is definitely stuff you don't hear about elsewhere.

2:25 PM  

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